Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 12 News List

ANALYSIS: APEC summit promises more substantial talk

A RARE SAY As APEC is one of the few bodies of which Taiwan is a member, Taipei intends to use the forum to propose a 'Green Opportunity Initiative'

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Over the past few years, APEC summits have seemed more like an annual gathering of leaders from 21 member states who put on the traditional costume of the host country and pose in front of media than a forum where substantive decisions on economic cooperations are made.

Leaders' declarations, such as the "Santiago Initiative," the "Busan Roadmap" and the "Hanoi Action Plan," all failed to take the attention away from the demonstrators outside the conference venues, or Intel Corp's investment in emerging Vietnam last year.

The lukewarm interest in the meeting was also revealed by a survey released last year by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), an advisory group to APEC, which suggested that APEC is less important than it was in 1989.

But this year, APEC leaders have real work to do.

As a founding member of APEC, this year's host, Australia, has attempted to highlight the importance of the organization by concentrating on several issues of crucial importance.

Under the theme "Strengthening our Community: Building a Sustainable Future," Australia put the summit in the spotlight with its strong environmental agenda.

On the last day of the two-day summit on Sunday, the 21-economy bloc -- including the the US and China, the world's biggest emitters -- will agree to cut "energy intensity" by 25 percent by 2030 and plant 20 million hectares of trees to combat climate change, a draft of the leaders' declaration said.

"The industrial sector is a main pillar in the Asia Pacific region. The attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will affect industries worldwide ... these measures imply multi-billion dollar expenses," said Wu Fu-cheng (吳福成), deputy director of the division of international affairs at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER, 台經院). "Australia's efforts in increasing the significance of the APEC summit this year have paid off."

Moreover, as APEC is one of the few international organizations where Taiwan is able to participate and make contributions, the raised status of APEC will certainly benefit Taiwan, Wu said.

Riding the wave, Taiwan will propose a "Green APEC Opportunity Initiative" at this year's meeting, which offers it a chance to increase its presence following the APEC Digital Opportunity Center project.

Through the initiative, Taiwan will provide an information exchange platform for clean production, green consumption, green industry, nature preservation and pollution prevention among member countries.

Australia's bid to push forward greenhouse gas emission reduction drew criticism, as one drawback of APEC is that it operates as a nonbinding forum, which means that substantive results are far from certain.

But Evelyn Killick, executive deputy director of the policy section at the Australian Commerce and Industry Office, disagrees.

Killick said that nonbinding does not mean that members will not follow through. The establishment of APEC was to facilitate trade and that purpose has been served well so far under the prevailing system, he said.

Another major topic during the APEC meeting will be an APEC trade pact, or the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

Acknowledging the tremendous challenge of integrating 21 economies, the US-led initiative was proposed three years ago by the APEC Business Advisory Council and the PECC and was listed as a long-term goal last year.

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